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Duct Tape Finds A New Purpose In the Serial Seat Saver’s Arsenal

My daughter has been dancing at the same dance studio for 10 years. Every year there is a big recital at our convention center’s auditorium. The owner does want to fill up the auditorium so she has a contest for the most tickets sold. It’s low key with just a small prize. Usually the winner is someone with a large family but with grandparents, siblings, etc. it can end up being quite a few people. What resulted from this is rather an interesting example of entitlement. Several of the “big” ticket sellers’ moms, feeling that they were entitled to good seats because of all the tickets their child sold decided to hold these seats in an unusual way. This is how I found out what they were doing.

I like to arrive early to events in order to get good seats. The first year my daughter danced I brought along my 87 year old grandmother, my mom, and son. We were about 10th in line. The doors opened and I made a beeline for the seats I wanted for my family. And I watched 3-4 women taking MASKING TAPE and taping off ROWS of seats. Not two or three seats. These were several rows of 15-20 seats for people who were not at the auditorium and who we watched arrive over the course of the next half hour and sit down in these saved seats. We were relegated to seats much farther back than where we wanted to be. This was partly because as we had headed up towards the front we wasted time trying to figure out what was going on with all the taped seats and by that time we made our way back through the crowded aisle much of the auditorium was filled up. I was stunned. I felt so bad that my sweet little grandmother stood in line like a trooper and then was deprived of a seat close to the stage by people who had not earned the right to that seat by standing in line. I can understand saving one or two seats but entire rows? These women had taped off at least 60 seats in the best part of the auditorium. And just so it’s clear–these were not employees or volunteers marking off reserved seating for guests of the studio or dancers. These were just moms with tape. I am sure no one questioned the taped seats because they thought there was an “official” reason thee seats were being reserved. I figured it out because I had arrived so early and saw the taping actually happening. In response I did two things and I don’t think either of them will send my to etiquette hell but I will be interested in the response to this story.

One thing I should say is that at the time I was new to dance studio etiquette so I wasn’t sure if I had a right to be mad. Maybe this was something that was acceptable or that the owner allowed? So I didn’t complain but I did gather info and opinions. I found out that the owner had allowed it to happen for many years but it wasn’t encouraged. She just let them get away with it. So when recital time came around and the same thing happened I just took the tape off the seats and sat down with my family. Taking the tape off one end of the row resulted in much of it coming off so other people just moved on in to those seats too. The looks on the tape moms’ faces were priceless. I am sure they thought I was several bad names but how could they protest? Their families weren’t there and 50 other people were. After that, another mom and I mentioned to the owner how unfair this behavior was to her other dance families and she put a note in recital newsletter that taping seats was not allowed. It’s never happened since. I still can’t believe it happened at all! 0313-12



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  • bloo March 21, 2012, 7:29 pm

    OP – You. Are. Awesome!

    It’s reasonable to save a seat for those in your car group, but unreasonable to tape off whole rows and sections of rows. Tape-Moms have got chutzpah!

  • Katie March 22, 2012, 6:42 am

    Brilliant work, OP!!

    I would say with 99% certainty that these women know EXACTLY what they’re doing, and were depending on everyone else’s reluctance to challenge them. Why on earth should they get priority over everyone else? Why are they more important than other people?! Unless there is a specific medical need, then it should absolutley be first come, first served. That they didn’t challenge you suggests that they know that they’re being unreasonable!

    While I see that this is an awkward situation, I would also guess that the studio owner also knows exactly what’s been going on, but has found it easier to turn a blind eye. I think that they should have been much more proactive with this. It’s something that could easily have been addressed, in a non-confrontational way, in a newsletter, etc, when the competition was originally ‘announced’ or the tickets released, e.g. ‘Can I just politely remind all attendees that seats will be allocated on a first come, first served basis and cannot be reserved without a specific need, so please ensure that you come early if you want to be sure of a good seat!’ or suchlike.

  • Katie March 22, 2012, 6:50 am

    Ooops- I apologise- I just saw that the studio owner did do the thing about putting the note in the newsletter! I should have read the story properly, and I’m glad that this was addressed properly in the end.

  • o_gal March 22, 2012, 6:58 am

    And then there’s the opposite problem – when seats are being legitimately reserved and people tear off the tape and sit in them. For example, when there is a performance where some people will be up on stage performing part of the time, but need a place to sit in the audience when they are not performing. The director usually marks off a certain set of rows with tape, but during the performance, people who cannot find seats will see the taped off section as “not occupied”. The next thing is that they rip off the tape and sit there. Then the performers don’t have anywhere to sit. We’ve even had people walk in between the director and the performing group (bell choir) just to get to one of those seats, while we’re performing (thankfully that happened only 1 time and they were politely spoken to afterwards.)

  • Enna March 22, 2012, 11:26 am

    @ OP: I appriciate the owner is busy and doesn’t want to rock the boat with her customers however it is the owner’s studio, so it is her rules.

  • Ann March 22, 2012, 1:23 pm

    Personally, I learned about Standing in Line and Wait Your Turn at quite a young age. I guess it didn’t take with everyone!

    My personal seat-saving story… when on vacation at a Florida beachfront condo, my now-ex and I decided to eat breakfast in and hit the pool in the morning instead of going out to a restaurant. When we got to the pool, every (and I mean EVERY) lounger was covered by the towels of those who’d gone out to breakfast. Those towels needed a vacation? Anyway, we found the caretaker and asked him to collect all the towels and put them in the cabana for the owners to claim later. There were no attempts to lounger-hog the rest of our time there!

  • Hemi March 22, 2012, 1:53 pm

    Let me add my admiration for the OP to all the others.

    When my son graduated last year, people had tried to “save” seats by putting blankets on them. I knew there was not reserved seating so when I arrived an hour and half early to get a “good” seat, I politely removed the blankets, folded them neatly and put them in a pile. It was May in the South and blazing hot but I was able to see my son graduate and get great pictures!

  • Ultra Venia March 22, 2012, 4:56 pm

    I’m not sure why, but this reminds me of when customers of a restaurant take it upon themselves to fashion their own “banquet table” for their massive group of people they didn’t bother to call ahead on. (Even if it’s a fast food place, calling ahead of time is a good idea for a large group, even if it’s just a heads up: “Our bus full of hungry middle school soccer players is 10 minutes away from you guys! Get ready!”) It’s frustrating to the staff; the walkway layout is planned for safety and the re-arrangers only tend to plan for themselves.

  • Elizabeth March 23, 2012, 1:06 pm

    Congratulations for handling this effectively and without nasty confrontation. It amazes me how some people act, and then act even more poorly when challenged!

  • Mabel March 23, 2012, 4:16 pm

    Wow. Yay for the OP for moving the tape!

    I went to a magic show once with a couple of friends (it was David Copperfield, actually). We had three assigned seats together in a lower balcony. Now someone either sneaked in an extra person or it was a seat jumper from another row sitting with their buds, but when we got to our seats, a person was in one of them. That section was full, and there was nowhere else for us to sit. My friend’s husband said something like “Excuse me, but we have these seats assigned,” etc. They not only refused to budge, they completely ignored us.

    The show was getting ready to start by then, and my friend’s husband went to get the usher. He apologized and said he would re-seat us. So we followed him to….wait for it….


    I would love to have seen the looks on the seat jumpers’ faces. We ended up with far, far better seats than they had in the first place!

  • Shelley March 23, 2012, 6:47 pm

    The seat-saving phenomenon was quite common at my daughter’s elementary school. We’d arrive very early and find that the first few rows were being guarded. We’d ask, “are these seats taken” and the answer would be a rude “yes!”. Of course the guests with the reserved seats would saunter in 30 seconds before the show was about to start. Even worse is when some of the designated guests don’t show up at all and the front row remains half-empty!

  • Linnie March 23, 2012, 7:06 pm

    @ Ultra Venia – THANK YOU! I host at a VERY busy restaurants and people can be absolute nightmares sometimes.. I’ve seen SIX people crowd around a booth built for THREE, they just brought extra chairs over and blocked the entire walkway. When I told them they had to move back to their original table they screamed at me and told me I was being inconsiderate. lol seriously? It’s also against the rules to put highchairs next to booths.. but I’ve had people take it upon themselves to move from the table I brought them to and sit in a booth, blocking the walkway with a highchair.

    Sometimes I wonder if some people were raised by wolves.

  • RiderWriter April 9, 2012, 5:30 pm

    Oh, boy, this story really gets my goat! Yes, people can be absolutely impossibly rude when it comes to “seat etiquette.” The one that gets me so bad is they do it in CHURCH. We belong to a massive parish (something like 5,000 families) and for the last few years, I’ve made an effort to attend Christmas Eve mass in the old, quite small chapel. We have a humongous new church which seats thousands, but I enjoy the atmosphere in the little one which is very much like the one I grew up attending. My little family of four always arrives early and invariably, there are people “holding” seats in many rows, ostensibly for missing relatives. Most of these latecomers do show up but unfailingly, there are still empties by the time Mass is 10 minutes on. Obviously no one else is coming. And just as obviously, there are people left standing in the back of the church with nowhere to sit. It just burns me up! My family has also been split up due to lack of seats and yet, holes in the pews when Mass is underway! It doesn’t make me feel very charitable but I can’t help it, I just think it’s horribly rude. When Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary have not appeared, please tell an usher and let some poor slobs sit down on Christmas, already….

  • Bernadette April 23, 2012, 3:41 pm

    @RiderWriter – totally agree about church! My sister has alwasy wanted to suggest that the church hand out tickets to the regular church goers so that the can actually have a seat at Christmas Eve Mass instead of standing up while the ‘Christmas Catholics’ take up the seats. That probably sounds snobbier than intended – but it’s frustrating! And these are the same people who won’t move over when the ushers try to make room for those standing in the back and up the side aisles!

  • Brockwest June 20, 2012, 1:27 pm

    I can definitely top the “save seat” versus “officially-saved seat” stories. My wife’s uncle just died, and she had to go to the funeral without me. She hasn’t been to many funerals so I pre-warned her that not everyone behaved well at funerals. As an official close member of the family, she was to have an “officially-saved seat,” but I warned her I had frequently been to funerals where people plopped themselves right into the “family seats” by the graveside. She didn’t think this was possible.
    At the funeral graveside, they had 8 official “family seats” reserved and designated with a sign. A generic neighbor with kids plopped into all 8 seats meaning no family member, widower included, was able to sit at the funeral. The funeral director, to his credit, requested the offenders to move, but they refused, so the widower stood on the sidelines during his wife’s funeral.

  • erica September 10, 2012, 7:56 am

    Brockwest- are you serious? I mean it’s easy to not read a sign when your herding a bunch of kids, I’ve done it….not at a funeral but …I would NEVER refuse to move if asked.
    I think if I were a bereaved family member I would say something quietly perhaps in her ear that she and her kids needed to move as the family immediate family members needed those seats and they were reserved for them.

    I personally find that not moving when requested is in essence the same as bullying and entitlement behaviors found throughtout this website. Allowing it allows the person to believe what they are doing is okay. I do, of course, understand a funeral is hardly a place to make a scene but I do also think a slight outpouring of grief with perhaps a swoon and a family member quickly ushering the offender out of those seats would not be out of line.
    She may have just been embarassed that she commited a faux pas. But I doubt it.